Ari Meisel

My Five All-Time Favorite Conversations from The Less Doing Podcast.

I’ve now done 400 episodes of The Less Doing Podcast.

It’s been downloaded 1 million times.

So, it was pretty freakin’ hard to come up with my top five favorites. But I did it and here they are. In no particular order. Links to the original podcast are included.

The Importance of Strategic Coaching for Entrepreneurial Success — A Conversation with Dan Sullivan

Raise your hand if you’re an entrepreneur and you can’t focus.

Here’s the thing: the majority of us are finding ourselves in situations where we have so much going on, but we’re losing our footing.

From meetings to product development, we’ve got to be everywhere. We have to do everything.


No, if you’re asking Dan Sullivan, one of the most experienced business coaches.

With over 35 years of experience, Dan is focused on one thing only: stopping the overworked entrepreneur syndrome.

How Strategic Coaching Helps

Let’s be real: entrepreneurs don’t really need help with management. A tool can help with that.

What entrepreneurs really need is strategic coaching.

We need to get our priorities straight. We need to know what to focus on.

However, we’re surrounded by the buzz.

You know what I’m talking about; all those articles telling you what your next direction should be, team members with their input, your family.

Everyone has something to say.

And you have to stay sane and show up for your business.

It’s easier said than done, which is exactly why strategic coaching helps.

Entrepreneurs have great ideas and skills, plenty of healthy ambition. But they can’t quite focus — there is too much going on. A strategic coach is there to simplify things and help entrepreneurs define their priorities.

If you’re not in a place to get a strategic coach, you can learn from their strategies. Dan was kind enough to share a few lessons:

Strategic Lesson №1: Positive Focus Matters

Whenever you’re meeting with two or more people, start with a positive focus.

Spend two to three minutes talking about things you’re excited about.

This can be previous achievements, future plans — something that can hype everyone. It doesn’t even have to be related to work, as long as it gives everyone in the room a bolt of energy.

Then, start the meeting.

When you’re done, go back to positive focus.

Cheer on everyone for how well they’ve handled the issues you’ve discussed.

According to Dan, positive focus is incredibly important for morning meetings.

Everyone’s coming from different things in their lives, and half of their attention is still focused on them.

By starting off the meeting with positive things, you’ll help everyone reach the same page.

The biggest skill in life is to be where you really are.

Positive focus ensures you and your team are present in the moment.

Strategic Lesson №2: You Have to Neutralize the Critic

Strategic coaches don’t have to be hard on entrepreneurs. No one can be harder on them than they are.

Think about it; chances are, you’re probably the worst boss you’ve ever had.

Dan wants to change that, as well.

Strategic coaching is the art of asking the right questions, not providing the right answers.

In strategic coaching, no one’s going to give you the formula for success. However, coaches will help you pose the right questions.

The crucial thing is to be clear about the area you’re actually good at.

When you, as an entrepreneur, know what your strengths and your weaknesses are, you won’t be exposed to your inner critic as much.

Instead, you’ll focus on doing the work that only you can do.

You’ll have no problem delegating the rest of the work to the people on your team who are more skilled.

Or, as Dan puts it…

Do what you are really, really great at. Everybody else’s job is to free you up in some way.

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know it’s hard to let go and delegate. You feel an immense sense of responsibility.

But if you shift your perspective, you’ll have a lot more time for the things that truly matter.

Strategic Lesson №3: Entrepreneurs Need Rest

Entrepreneurs often wear their burnout syndromes like badges of pride.

Dan Sullivan, who has been a strategic coach for over 30 years, has a problem with that.

You need more free time so you’re operating strategically, not tactically.

A lot of entrepreneurs are perpetually stuck in survival mode.

They’re working so hard that they don’t have an hour of quality free time. This leads to quite literally being unable to think.

You’re adding 25 important things to think about to your plate, and you’re fighting to make it through the day.

And then, Dan says, he asks his clients to take two weeks away and there’s a change:

Two weeks away, and you no longer think about twenty-five different things. You’ve got 3 things on your plate at most, and they’re all strategic.

And the more rest you take, the more will you be able to identify the truly important things.

As an entrepreneur, taking time away isn’t easy, but it’s necessary.

Do it, and you’ll become your own strategic coach.

Do You Know How To Sleep Well? — A Conversation with Dr. Michael Breus

I know what you’re thinking: what kind of question is that?

Do you know how to sleep well?

Ari, we were born with the ability to sleep. It ain’t a skill you can pick up!

Well, it turns out, your sleep quality can be poor, and it’s interfering with the way you think, work, and live.

How to Get Better Sleep: Crash Course

You’re an entrepreneur, you’re in a rush and you needed answers yesterday — I get it.

That’s why I’ve talked to Dr. Michael Breus, AKA the Sleep Doctor.

If we’ve hacked productivity, then Dr. Breus certainly hacked sleep.

An activity we don’t think of as an activity, sleep is crucial to thinking and operating productively. And the right answer to getting more rest isn’t just popping a melatonin pill and calling it a day.

Instead, here’s what you have to know to get better rest tonight:

1. Melatonin won’t help

The first problem with melatonin is the dosage.

Because of a royalty/patent feud, the majority of companies are selling too much melatonin. A single pill doesn’t contain the perfect amount (1/3–1 mg).

It contains a lot more than you need.

And whenever you introduce an exotic hormone to your body, it’s going to impair your body’s natural ability to produce the hormone it needs.

Melatonin isn’t a sleeping pill. It’s a regulator.

It can help your body realign circadian rhythms, but it’s not going to knock you out and push you into the REM phase.

Melatonin is only really useful if you’re naturally a night owl who needs to realign their circadian rhythm.

Otherwise, there are much better methods of improving the sleep you’re getting.

2. Mattress matters

With companies like Casper popping up to promise you better sleep if you invest in a mattress (for possibly the first time in your life), I couldn’t wait to talk about mattresses with dr. Breus.

The main benefit of mattresses is the support they’re giving you.

When I was twenty, I could fall asleep on literally any flat surface. Heck, I could curl into a bus seat and get my daily dose of energy.

But as you grow older, you start needing specific support.

When you’re thinking about purchasing a mattress, don’t think about the price point. Think about the support.

If you have torn discs, get memory foam mattresses that stop you from twisting in the night. Similarly, if you have shoulder or lower back issues, get mattresses that provide specific support for that.

A $10,000 mattress doesn’t have to be more effective than a $500 one. There’s no data to back that up.

Understand the position you sleep in.

If you sleep on your stomach, avoid soft mattresses. They’ll push your lower back in a way that could damage it.

3. Pillow Talk

Similarly to mattresses, your pillows matter because of your sleep position.

If your pillow is too full, it can squish your nose forward, giving you respiratory issues.

The ideal is to have your nose in line with your sternum as you sleep.

If you sleep on your side and you need extra space between your head and your shoulder, you should factor that into your pillow decision.

The goal is to get all the support your body needs for a good night’s sleep.

In fact, the majority of head, neck and shoulder problems come from the wrong pillow.

Dr. Braus advocates buying a new pillow every 18 months since the material quality degrades over time.

You ultimately end up with a pillow that’s not the pillow you bought, or the pillow that can support you.

(Talk about metaphors, huh?)

4. The Perfect Position

Sleeping on your back is actually the perfect sleeping position, even if 70% of people sleep on their side.

When you lie back, all of your weight is evenly distributed. Your limbs aren’t going numb, you’re not crushing your capillaries or moving around during the night. And yet, why can’t we sleep on our backs?

It’s actually a spinal thing.

As we use our bodies throughout the day, we wear down our spinal discs.

When we sleep, they’re rehydrated and grow apart, making us effectively taller when we wake up.

The easiest way to help them rehydrate is by sleeping in a fetal position.

A good way around it is by putting a pillow underneath your knees.

This way, you’re removing the pressure off your pelvis and allowing the discs to recuperate even as you’re sleeping on your back.

5. Banana tea

Finally, dr. Braus recommends brewing a banana tea to get some shuteye:

  • Get an organically grown banana
  • Leave the peel on and wash it
  • Cut off the tips
  • Cut the banana (with the peel on) in half
  • Put the banana in 3–4 cups of boiling water
  • Wait a few minutes
  • Presto! You’ve got your banana tea!

Bananas have a lot more magnesium than any other fruit.

And, it turns out, magnesium works wonders for getting you the rest you need to keep doing amazing things!

Phil McKernan — Dealing with Emotions as an Entrepreneur

We talk about skills. We talk about goals and meeting targets. Heck, sometimes when we’re feeling really wild, we talk about doing more by doing less.

But entrepreneurs talk about their emotions the least.

That’s why my conversation with Phil McKernan, a speaker and a coach who brings clarity to entrepreneurs struggling to go forward, brought me so much joy.

It turns out, we don’t just need strategy.

We need emotional clarity in order to make the best decisions for our businesses.

Emotional Alignment

In addition to strategical alignment, you as an entrepreneur need emotional alignment.

If you want to become a brilliant entrepreneur, you can’t avoid raw conversations.

Phil has worked with so many entrepreneurs who thought they needed business coaches who could tell them how to make the most out of their businesses.

It turned out, they were facing obstacles in other areas of their lives.

Their struggles with being better parents or spouses were translating into their business struggles. One area you’re struggling with has the ability to turn everything into one long road overflowing with obstacles.

One client told Phil that the timing wasn’t right to sell their business. Another told him there weren’t any right buyers to sell their business to.

He called bullshit and personally, I think we should be calling our own bullshit a little more often.

What we truly are is scared shitless.

Again, this is normal. This is what it means to be an entrepreneur.

We’re facing the unknown constantly, but we’ve managed to let ourselves define our journeys by the things we’ve accomplished in business.

It’s completely obscuring our view.

Our perception is giving us brain fog.

And our goal is to cut through it.

You Are Replaceable (but that’s good!)

Phil and I agree on one thing: we’re replaceable.

A lot of people — especially entrepreneurs — don’t allow themselves to consider the fact that maybe, just maybe, the world would go on without them.

You hold on tight to your business because there’s nothing else that fulfills you and gives you the meaning you need.

In the long term, it turns you into a person who has trouble letting go of what no longer serves you or helps you grow.

If you have depth in other areas of your life, you won’t be putting all of your meaning-eggs in one basket.

You’ll be fine even if you are the replaceable founder.

Otherwise, you won’t be in emotional alignment.

You’ll reach the top, achieve all you’ve set out to achieve, but you won’t get the sense of satisfaction you’ve been craving all along.

Now, the majority of entrepreneurs face that obstacle and they don’t think about it.

All they do is push themselves into more work.

It’s not a good coping strategy, so Phil goes beyond that when he works with his clients.

Accessing Your Truth

Ultimately, as an entrepreneur who wants to feel happy about their success, you have to understand your emotions and your truth.

So many people have built empires out of a simple need to avoid poverty. They grew up in poverty and they knew they didn’t want to go back there.

However, the pendulum swings the other way around, and it’s another extreme stopping you from accessing your truth.

Once you do examine your emotions and understand what truly drives you to succeed, you will be able to create a life that gives you meaning.

You won’t postpone difficult conversations or add more tasks to your to-do list.

When you’re in emotional alignment, you’ll accept all of who you are. The good, the bad, the ugly. And when you talk about it, you’ll make someone in your audience go: “Holy shit, I am not alone in this.”

Building a Relationship with Yourself

According to Phil (and this is something I can vouch for too), there are three most important relationships that can bring you meaning and help you live in alignment with your truth:

  1. Your relationship with yourself
  2. Your relationship with your loved ones
  3. Your relationship with the work you do

Your relationship with yourself gives you confidence and self-esteem.

Your relationship with the people you love allows you to come home at the end of the day and say: “You know what? I love what I have. I love my family.”

And your relationship with the work you do ultimately helps you do meaningful things and have an impact on your community.

It helps you perceive your work as a true extension of yourself.

Not just something you spend time on to feel as though you’re worthy.

Over time, you’ll see how these relationships compound to help you live a more meaningful life.

Forget about being irreplaceable.

Forget about overworking yourself and experiencing burnout every damn week.

Instead, go out there and find your meaning.

It will tell you everything you need to know.

Jordan Belfort — Sales Lessons from the Original Wolf of Wall Street

You can say whatever you want about Jordan Belfort, but you can’t deny the man knows how to sell.

A natural-born salesman, Jordan Belfort has had his ups and downs, but he’s back and wiser than ever.

In my recent conversation with him, we’ve discussed his ethical persuasion sales system, and how entrepreneurs like us can use it.

Sales Are Natural

Most people fear sales, but they’re everything in life and business.

Sales happens everywhere.

If you’re a parent and you want to convince your kid to do their homework before bed, you’ve got to sell them on the idea.

If you want to share your ideas with the world, you need to sell them to everyone.

Teachers sell constantly; how else are you going to convince your students that learning about ancient emperors is applicable to modern-day situations?

One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is that they think about sales only in terms of closing deals.

Sales are a process of empowering people with the information you’re giving them.

Closed deals come naturally. You first have to convince them.

For Jordan Belfort, that’s a skill he naturally has.

But for the rest of us, he has a few lessons to share…

1. Persuasion is a linchpin skill

If you want to sell effectively and close deals quicker, you need to become more persuasive.

You can have the world’s best pitch, but unless you’re addressing customers’ objections and selling them on your idea before you sell them on the price, you’re not going to be able to close deals quickly and effectively.

Additionally, persuasion goes further than closing a single deal.

Persuasion helps you turn your customers into raving fans who will go out there and sell your products for you.

In the current situation, getting leads is expensive.

Your marketing program could be costing you so much per every customer you acquire that you may be barely breaking even.

The best way to get new customers and retain your revenue is by getting evangelists on board.

And you can’t do that without being persuasive.

Jordan advocates the oldest trick in the book, which he claims still works: giving away free samples.

You can offer bits of your wisdom through blog posts, or literally offer free samples of your products like they do in grocery stores.

There’s a reason why they’re so persuasive and translate to more sales.

2. “I have to ask my spouse”

One of the objections I hear often is definitely “I have to ask my husband/wife.”

According to Jordan, this is only a valid argument if your prospect is making a significant investment like buying a house.

Everything else is only a way to say: “I’m not convinced by what you’re telling me.”

There are a few ways to overcome those objections and turn your product into the best thing since sliced bread for your customers:

  • Don’t address leads’ objections. Instead, deflect them and loop back around to benefits.
  • If you’re asking your prospect to make a decision that requires other stakeholders’ input, make sure they’re present at your meeting.
  • The key is to make yourself a trustworthy salesperson. Speak about your experience, and relate to your prospect on a human level. For example, Belfort mentions one situation related to the “I need to ask my wife” objection. He approached his prospect by saying: “Of course, John, but I’ve been in this business for a long time, and I can guarantee she doesn’t ask you every time she wants to buy a pair of shoes.
  • Make your company and your product trustworthy. Ideally, the prospect will have already reviewed testimonials from people just like them.

Finally, bring back the conversation to the prospect. Ask them: “Well John, does the idea make sense to you?”

Deflect the objection. Then, go back and emphasize the benefits again. Convince the prospect of what you’re telling them.

You’ll see the objection smokescreen melt before your very eyes.

3. Forget your goals, and focus on your vision

Finally, Jordan has advice for entrepreneurs that’s not strictly related to sales, but it can help you understand your life’s work and your products better.

We’re all obsessed with our goals and getting there.

Jordan says: Transcend your goal setting and focus on your vision.

You have to create a detailed vision of your life.

Imagine where you want to be in five years personally, and imagine where you want your business to be in five years.

Then, understand your vision.

Know why you want your life to look like that.

It’ll help you understand your values and your motivations.

Ultimately, knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing will help you not only believe in your products so you can be more persuasive, but you’ll also overcome obstacles with ease.

After that, the actual selling becomes a piece of cake.

Peter Shallard — How to Be the Entrepreneur You Want to Be

For the majority of entrepreneurs, there is a huge gap between what you should be doing and the kind of entrepreneur you want to be, and the kind of entrepreneur you actually are.

We all have different images of ourselves in our heads.

But come Monday, we open up our laptops and we’re no longer the people we want to be.

So how do we change that?

How do we become the entrepreneurs we’ve always dreamt of being?

According to Peter Shallard, the shrink for entrepreneurs, accountability is key.

How Accountability Improves Your Efficiency

The one thing that Shallard brings into his Commit Action program are principles taken from therapy.

One thing that works with good and bad therapy alike is accountability.

A lot of entrepreneurs today are operating in a vacuum of isolation.

No one knows what they’re doing, no one knows that they’re showing up, day in and day out.

And more importantly: no one is celebrating their success.


Because no one knows what’s happening.

That’s one of the guiding principles behind Commit Action, where entrepreneurs get a coach who can help them feel accountable and positive about the actions they’re taking.

Shallard and his team, including psychology professors from NYU, actually conducted research to back that approach.

It turns out, entrepreneurs who were consistently successful had one thing others did not: people who held them accountable.

And despite all the technology that makes it easier than ever to start and run a profitable company, it’s actually depriving us of the positive psychological environment in which human beings thrive.

Everybody Wants to Hang out with the World

We can blame our ape ancestors for needing environments from which we get recognition and acceptance.

The part of our brain that needs social acceptance and appreciation directly influences our ability to focus.

Being entrepreneurs in our PJs isn’t working for us. We’re lonelier than ever.

The more and more time passes, the less can we focus.

It ultimately creates a state that Shallard calls mental-like schizophrenia. His clients describe feeling like they live with mental sock puppets.

At one point, the puppets cheer them on to stay hyped and efficient. Then the puppets turn on them, criticizing them for not doing enough.

And despite the events and talks that are supposed to make you feel on top of the world and push you into hyper productivity, that’s impossible to maintain without a mental game plan.

It Takes a Village to Organize a Human Brain

We need socialization, and it’s striking that a lot of businesses in the US are actually one-person companies.

Yes, you may outsource your work to freelancers, but if you’re the only one responsible for your activities and your success, and you don’t have anyone to turn to at the end of the day for accountability and recognition, it’ll get lonely soon.

And when it gets lonely, your ability to focus suffers.

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs have entire support nets; teams, boards of directors, coaches, and mentors.

Celebrating wins stops being a monologue, and turns into an accountability dialogue.

It’s why Commit Action works so well.

Shallard offers the minimum viable dose of accountability, perfect for busy entrepreneurs. You just get on the phone with your coach and tell them what you did.

It’s a small step for you, but an immense one for your future.

It’s Okay Not to Be a Powerhouse

Shallard does a lot of work with burnt out entrepreneurs who are at the point where even performing a simple task like making 10 cold calls is too much.

So what does he recommend doing in that kind of situation?

Break down the task.

Is 10 cold calls too much? Make it five.

Is 5 too much? Make a list of people you’re going to call.

Is making a list too much? Dial the first digit.

It’s something, and when you have someone holding you accountable for completing these small goals, it’ll start off a positive reinforcement chain.

In the long term, you’ll be able to commit to greater and greater actions.

Even if the initial actions you’re committing to are barely moving the needle, they’ll compound.

The Key: Implementation Granularity

So, how do you become the entrepreneur you want to be?

By taking action, consistently, and having a healthy environment to do it in.

If your goals are overwhelming you (and you know how the saying goes — if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough), there’s a simple trick you can use:

Break down the big goal into small tasks.

Climbing Mount Everest is a huge, hairy goal to swallow.

But if you visualize it as taking thirty thousand steps, it’ll become much more achievable.

And if you also have someone to hold you accountable all the while, you’ll improve your productivity and your head game.

How To Create An Automated Sales Pipeline

As a 21st century entrepreneur, you have to accept that you are replaceable. But that isn’t a bad thing. Not by a longshot.

With all the technology freely available to modern entrepreneurs, being replaceable is a fantastic thing.

You get to hire and delegate, freeing up your schedule, and with a little automation, you can accomplish absolutely anything.


Because you get to focus on the most important things.

As Steve Jobs once said, “If you want to achieve a goal, you have to learn how to turn down the interesting work that distracts you from your priorities. You have to have focus, and say no to the thousand other great ideas you have.”

Now, some things are easier to automate than others.

Want to automatically submit invoices? Get an accounting software.

Want to send out awesome email campaigns? Piece of cake with all the email marketing providers out there.

However, all of these automation hacks rely on something happening.

But what if nothing happens?

Is it possible to trigger an automation when something doesn’t happen?

Every automation software, IFTTT, and Zapier relies on something happening. The action then serves as a trigger for the actions that follow.

If you used them for sales automation, you could trigger an email when a prospect responds. Trigger a notification when they say yes to your offer.

But what if you need to follow up with someone who never responded?

Fortunately, I’ve found a way to create an automated sales pipeline.

A complete pipeline solution; regardless of whether your prospects get or don’t get in touch with you.

And because sales automation is one of the most important things we can do to grow our businesses and achieve our goals, we’ve decided to create a new sales dashboard.

Why Sales Pipelines Are Better than Sliced Bread

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need some $10,000 solution to completely automate your sales pipeline.

Often, providers will charge you exorbitant amounts because they know the success of your business depends on your sales pipeline.

Without a sales pipeline, you don’t have an organized way of receiving new leads and advancing them through your funnel until they’ve become customers.

Without a sales pipeline, your sales reps are forced to jot down lead information on post-its. They don’t have a structured way of assembling information on every single lead and figuring out the best way to convert them.

To put it simply: without a sales pipeline, you have no way of understanding your sales process, opportunities, and all the deals you lost and won.

And if you want to succeed from month to month, growing your sales numbers and your revenue, you need to understand your sales intimately.

I’m talking about understanding your sales process as intimately as you understand your best friend.

You have to know its strengths (what your product, reps, and leads are good at), weaknesses (the objections you have to address), opportunities, and threats.

When you have a sales pipeline, you can accurately predict your results.

Additionally, when your sales pipeline is automated, your reps don’t have to spend time on mundane tasks an algorithm could accomplish. Instead, they’re free to focus on the things only they can do.

That sounds a lot like the idea of the replaceable founder, right?

Well, they share something in common: they clean tasks off your plate, so you can focus on the most important ideas and responsibilities.

The same thing happens with your salespeople when you’ve got an automated sales pipeline.

Automated sales pipelines are even more important if you’re still in the growth stage of your business.

You can’t spend hours chasing down leads or poring over analytics to understand what you’re doing wrong. You have to get the best results you can. Fast.

How We Created Our New Sales Dashboard

Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to talk specifics.

When I was working on the sales dashboard, I knew I wanted one thing — one thing that was really hard to come by:

Automation triggered by inaction.

Typically, your sales pipeline actions will only be triggered when leads do something. But what happens when they don’t do anything?

This is a common scenario.

You’ve got dozens of really important leads, but you’re sending automatic emails every day. You can’t manually track everyone who never responded.

I mean, you could — but then you wouldn’t get a 4-hour workday. You’d get a 24-hour workday.

Usually, the leads who don’t respond after the first email drop out of your sales pipeline. Regular tools don’t provide a way of getting in touch with them again. If they don’t respond, they’re out.

This obviously sucks. You need those leads.

Maybe your email just got lost.

Knowing that we set out to create an automated sales pipeline that could be triggered by inaction as well as action.

Here’s what we did:

1. The Brain of the Pipeline

First, we built a spreadsheet.

(Spreadsheet hate aside for a second, they’re great at helping you organize your work. You can get and feed them data, and gauge all the insights you need to boost your numbers ASAP.)

Our spreadsheet serves as the backbone of our sales system.

It’s our back-end giving us all the information we need.

On the front end, we set up a Trello board.

If you’ve seen some of our previous boards, you’ll notice that it’s expanded quite a bit. Cue the need for a more structured, automated sales pipeline.

We don’t want to be leaking leads, but maximizing the profits we get from them.

2. Leads and Actions

We’re using our Trello board as our HQ for this one.

We’ve set up columns for:

  1. New leads
  2. First contact
  3. Attempted second contact
  4. Attempted third contact
  5. Attempted final contact
  6. Attempted and then contact or appointment made
  7. Scheduled appointment
  8. Completed
  9. Follow-up call scheduled

As you can see, we follow up quite a bit. In sales, it takes at least 5 follow up efforts on average to successfully close a deal.

After the ninth column, we give up on leads. They’re either unqualified or they went cold, which is a problem for another dashboard.

Right now, we’re using this dashboard to focus on our sales efforts and maximize the efficiency of our processes.

At the top of every column, we’ve put instructions on what should be done in that phase.

This way, we’re streamlining follow-ups and sales processes. Whoever logs into that dashboard knows exactly what they need to do. There’s no second-guessing or wondering.

You log in and you do the work.

A lot of our follow-ups here are automatic.

When a card gets put into “first contact attempted,” the sales dashboard automatically adds a one-day due date.

Then, the salesperson assigned to it will see that ping, and they’ll follow up.

Now, this in itself is quite efficient. However, I have a Zapier zap for each stage.

The trickiest zap of them all (and the most important one) is the new lead zap.

3. The New Lead Zap

Now, the goal of our dashboard is having an automated sales pipeline and by God, we’ll have it!

The next part of the dashboard includes using Zapier.

I’m a huge fan of it. It just took a while to create a workaround for zaps that had non-triggers (i.e. leads didn’t respond and action was queued).

First of all, you need to set up a way for new leads to come into your Trello dashboard. From there, Zapier can handle the rest.

In our case, our leads come to the “New lead” column from either:

  • Intercom
  • Land bot application
  • Calendly session booking

You’ve got to cover all your lead entry points and ensure that they’re all added to your Trello dashboard to create an automated sales pipeline.

Once a new card (representing a new lead) is added to Trello, the next step is sending a Voxer message to our sales Voxer group.

Then, the message actually goes ahead and tells our salespeople that they have a new lead, with all the relevant information.

This is our system’s specificity. We have a system where the first salesperson that gets the lead goes after it throughout the funnel, so it’s very expandable.

However, if you have a different system, you can absolutely mix & match.

For example, if you have specific sales reps for different points of contact (columns), you can schedule automated messages to be sent to the right channels/reps.

Make sure your Trello, spreadsheet, and Zapier dates match.

You may need to format dates like I did. When a Trello card is created, it includes a full date, time and time zone shtick. However, you can’t use that in a spreadsheet, so you have to simplify the date.

The details really matter when you want to create an automated sales pipeline.

Organize your rows.

Since Zapier is going to be pulling data from your spreadsheet, you have to make sure that not only dates match, but that you don’t have any duplicate rows.

Specify which row Zapier should be using to pull data, and ensure that it matches the Trello cards and columns.

Zapier is going to be looking up everything that’s in the spreadsheet row you specified, so take the number that is in the spot there.

Then, add a number function to your spreadsheet.

When you get a new lead, the spreadsheet row Zapier is using has to be updated.

4. Know Your Numbers

You can also have Zapier look up different rows.

We chose to focus on our stats row to help us understand how our process is performing, and how many leads we’re getting on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

You can pull data for the past 7 days and the past 30 days.

I personally think it’s best to understand your 7-day lead totals and your 30-day lead totals.

Since those are moving targets (and the spreadsheet will treat them as sums), you’ll always get the freshest data, provided that the spreadsheet is updated in real-time.

It’s a lot more useful to be able to reference a Trello card in a meeting, instead of manually pulling data from a huge spreadsheet.

The best way to organize your sales pipeline is to add a status update card with stats to every Trello column.

It’ll give you the most accurate data on the current number of leads in that stage, which can later alert you to any problems with your sales pipeline or stages you should further optimize.

Again, automation is all about efficiency.

If you notice that, after a while, the leads really get stuck in the “third contact attempted” column, you can devise a way to improve it.

However, if you don’t see the data, there’s no way of understanding what’s wrong or improving it.

With an automated sales pipeline, you’ll know exactly what’s happening at any given point.

What Does It Look Like from the Client’s POV?

Obviously, we don’t want our clients to see the gears behind the process.

We just want to make sure our automated sales pipeline is efficient and smooth.

In my case, whenever a new card with a new lead is added to the board, a client gets an email from my Gmail address:

“Hey, thanks so much for your interest. One of our enrollment specialists will be in touch ASAP. In the meantime, if you want to book a call, you can…”

If the clients left a phone number with their contact info, we’ll make sure that the contact info is formatted properly and send them a text message notifying them of the email we sent.

So as you can tell, there are quite a lot of apps in our process.

But all it takes is 12 zaps.

12 zaps, and you’ll have created an efficient automated sales pipeline.

Cool, right? Want to get in on more of this replaceability stuff?

  1. Join our FREE Facebook Group — The Replaceable Founder
  2. Get our FREE Replaceable Founder Mini-Course
  3. Come to our One-Day Intensive “Becoming Replaceable” Workshop in NYC.
  4. Want to work with us privately? Just answer a few questions and find out if you’re a good fit. Apply Now

What is First Principle Thinking?

“What Do We Know To Be Absolutely True?

Using First Principles thinking is one of the most effective ways to solve problems simply because it forces you to break down complex issues into small bite-size steps. Doing so helps you find the quickest path to a solution.

Many eminent thinkers throughout history have used the First Principles approach, but my two favorites are inventor, Johannes Gutenberg (you know the whole Printing Press thing) and most recently, entrepreneur Elon Musk (yes, that Elon Musk). It is said that the ancient philosopher Aristotle is responsible for creating this way of thinking, but there is no solid proof of that. But I’m going to go ahead and say it totally sounds like something he would have said.

First Principle Thinking in Real Life

Let’s use Elon Musk and his company SpaceX, as an example, because the Gutenberg stuff is a little too dense and weighty. In 2002, he had the idea of sending the first rocket to Mars. Immediately he faced difficulties in coming up with a plan and a strategy for tackling such a feat. The biggest one was the cost of purchasing a rocket was somewhere around $65 million.

You have a couple of options when you are faced with this situation. You could suck it up and pay the $65 million to purchase a rocket, you could give up, or you could break the situation down using First Principle thinking.

I’m sure you realize what Musk did.

He broke down the problem into a bunch of pieces, (well, maybe more than a bunch, this is a rocket we’re talking about here). Then he reassembled them, putting them together again in a completely new array.

He took the cost of the individual parts and discovered that even after labor and overhead, he would still be able to build a rocket for a fraction of the cost.

SpaceX would eventually build the rocket for 10x less than what it would have cost to buy one and…he still made a profit.

Understanding First Principle a Bit Deeper

Let’s dig a little deeper into First Principle thinking. When you are putting this into practice, you want to ask yourself:

“What do we know to be absolutely true?”

If you think beneath the surface, you find solutions that didn’t exist before.

Back to the example of Elon Musk.

He knew that the cost of the rocket was too high, but he also knew that the cost of materials was lower. So, build a rocket, don’t buy one.

Simple as that.

Now I get it, we’re not all sending rockets to space, but as entrepreneurs, we each have our own rocketship to Mars problems every day.

If you flip houses professionally, you might find that you don’t have enough staff to flip before winter; meaning you’re going to sit on that property for the whole winter.

Big problem, right? The carrying costs would make quite a dent in your profit.

So we ask ourselves, “what do we know to be completely true?”

We know that we cannot afford to keep that house over the winter and that we don’t have enough staff to finish the flip.

You can then break it down to all the reasons why you can’t finish the flip and all the reasons why you can’t afford to hold over the winter. From there, you’ll find your solution, and it might even be different than you originally thought.

How First Principle Thinking Drives Change

The first principle forces you to break things down into smaller pieces and look at each component as its own individual moving part. When you break things down in such a way, it drives innovation because it makes you look at things from a different perspective.

For example, if you have a bike, a boat, and a car, you could take those three completely different things and break them down. Find each part that makes each thing perform its duties, and in the process, you might find that you can build something completely new with parts you pulled from all three things.

First Principle thinking, this process of boiling things down to a binary level has had a tremendous effect on people’s ability to make decisions and foster change.

The reason breaking ideas down is such a revolutionary idea is because people spend most of their time looking on the surface. Most people never look where the ideas are. The ideas don’t sit on the surface because that is where everyone else is looking. It takes the visionaries and innovators to really make an impact — this process of exploring leads to incredible ideas and life-changing breakthroughs.

How To Implement First Principle

It’s easy to sit here and read about the First Principle, but it’s more difficult to practice it in your daily life. This is because we love to optimize form instead of function. When we think of breaking things down to a smaller level, we’re always thinking about changing the appearance or look of something rather than changing its function or purpose.

If we go back in time to ancient Rome, we’ll find a perfect example of changing form but not purpose. For thousands and thousands of years, people have used backpacks for a variety of purposes. During ancient times, people used leather bags to store things for school, travel, or every day.

Later, zippers were added to bags, and more recently, nylon backpacks became a thing. But even though we saw improvements and changes to the bags, nothing about the function of the backpack was changing.

We were changing the appearance and overall look of the bag without changing the function. You don’t always need to change the function; if something works the way it is it’s perfectly fine to leave it that way.

But if you are looking for a solution to a complex problem you should always break the problem down and make sure you focus on changing the function, not the form.

Now if we go back to the Rome example, for many years, people carried messenger bags and satchels of food around on their bags or in their hands. While they are doing this, carriages and wagons are rolling around transporting things from place to place. No one at the time ever thought to put wheels on a bag to make it easier to transport. It wasn’t until 1970 that Bernard Sadow invented the first rollable suitcase. Can you even imagine if we had to carry all our luggage by hand through the airports?

Making Things Simple: Four Steps to Implement First Principle Thinking

I won’t complicate things and make you feel like you can’t start using this way of thinking in your life. It’s simple and easy when you break it down into small bite-size pieces. (see what I did there? We’re breaking down the process of breaking down.)

Step 1: Identify your problem

As a business owner, you have a problem you are looking to solve. Let’s say your problem is that your employees are taking too long to complete jobs. Something is happening in your business, and everyone is moving slower now.

Step 2: Make a list of the reasons why you can’t solve the problem

We’re going to go off in a different direction and write down all the things that are preventing you from solving that problem. Maybe you can’t afford a manager, or you’re employees are too old, or perhaps morale is too low.

Step 3: Write down all apparent solutions to the problem, but they don’t solve it adequately

There are always simple solutions to a problem, but they usually come with their own issues. You could hire a manager, but then you’d have to pay them, which means less money for you and the employees. You could spend more time at work supervising, but that means less time at home with your family. This is where compromise comes in.

Step 4: Ask yourself, “if the problem didn’t exist, and I could create a solution, what would it be?”

What is your ideal solution? Your ideal solution might be to retrain your employees, hire a manager, or maybe let go of some of the employees who are causing bottlenecks in your process. You may find that cutting the slack and starting fresh actually results in a better outcome.

9 Growth Accelerators Every Founder Needs

Honestly, who among us doesn’t want to unlock our constraints, unleash our team, and create a business that’s unstoppable? I mean, that’s the goal, right? That’s the day you get to say, you’ve become a Replaceable Founder.

It’s serious work, moving toward replaceability and maybe, just maybe, it’s not the same kind of work you’ve been doing; the relentless, indefatigable march of self-reliance that got you where you are. (which is fantastic, BTW, you killed it!)

Still, it can be both a great and terrifying day when a founder realizes she’s no longer shepherding a start-up; when she must manage rather than create; when she must relinquish control to drive the business forward; when she must stop working in her business and begin to work on it.

So let’s break it down into nine critical accelerators every successful entrepreneur needs for sustainable, measurable growth.

CAVEAT: this isn’t apple picking with kids; grabbing the ones you like, throwing away the ones that look a little weird, ignoring the ones that seem too hard to grasp. Nope, you’ve got to put ALL the apples in your basket. What you make of them is up to you. (We’re attempting pie tonight. Wish me luck. I have four kids. Under 8.)

The 3Ds

Most entrepreneurs lack a system for making effective decisions. They believe this is an innate skill, but most allow the sheer volume of choices they have to make in a day overwhelm them or derail their productivity.

Hard truth: You are the bottleneck in your business if your decision-making isn’t fast, informed, or precise.

The Remedy: Limit everyone (you included) to 3 decisions. Really.

  • Do: Complete a task now or assign it to someone else
  • Delete: Decline a request
  • Defer: Determine the best time to focus on the task


Most businesses lack intentionality around communication. They either don’t know that they should or don’t know how to be intentional. As a result, their businesses are plagued with noise: people are constantly bombarded with information and requests that are neither timely nor relevant. What’s worse is that people’s most productive times are often interrupted by this noise.

Hard Truth: You need a framework (yesterday) for how, when, and why you communicate with both your team and clients to stop the noise and encourage action.

The Remedy: The Less Doing Communication Mindset

  • Be intentional and purposeful about what, how, and when you communicate
  • Use multiple tools, so people know where to go for what type of information
  • Minimize interruptions at all costs

The 6 Levels of Delegation

Most entrepreneurs have experienced failures when it comes to delegation. They have asked people to take responsibility for a project and have not received the results they were expecting. It may be because they do not know how to delegate appropriately and lack experience in accurately communicating their intent.

If you’ve said on way too many occasions, “I got this.” You are not a master of delegation.

Hard Truth: You must accurately and effectively communicate your intent to others for them to operate successfully.

The Remedy: The 6 Levels of Delegation

  • Level 1: Perform — Do as I say
  • Level 2: Investigate — Look into this, and I’ll decide
  • Level 3: Recommend — Give me your advice, and I’ll decide
  • Level 4: Conclude — Explore, decide, but check with me
  • Level 5: Decide — Explore and decide within these limits
  • Level 6: Achieve — Take care of it for me

The External Brain

Entrepreneurs are full of ideas, but they lack a system and a plan for turning those ideas into reality. They either fall into the trap of letting a new idea hijack their time, or they completely forget about it and never apply it to grow their business.

Hard Truth: Your ideas are the fuel of your business. You must have a system to capture those ideas whenever and wherever you have them so you can act on them appropriately.

The Remedy: The External Brain Pathway

Capture Ideas — There’s a different time to have ideas than there is to process them. It would help if you had a way to keep them from distracting you.

Process Ideas — This is when you sit down to go through your ideas and determine what you’ll do with them.

Turn Ideas into Action Items — A method of getting your ideas from your capture point into your project management system.

Radical Transparency

The goal of a project management system isn’t just to have a place to dump an endless pile of to-do items. An effective project management system enables the leader to see precisely what is going on in the business so they can quickly, accurately, and effectively bring resources to bear to prevent bottlenecks.

If you look at your project management system and can’t tell what’s going on, can’t see where projects are in danger, or have to hunt down updates, then it is a hindrance.

Hard Truth: You need to have a bird’s eye view of what’s going on in your company at any given moment to identify bottlenecks and break log jams.

The Remedy: The 5 ITs of an Effective Project Management System

  • It defines phases — some form of “to do,” “doing,” and “done.”
  • It is dynamic — shows tasks moving through phases.
  • It shows ownership — There is some way to indicate who is responsible.
  • It sets deadlines — The owner knows when a deliverable is due.
  • It allows work to happen — It tracks conversations and details.


Many entrepreneurs fear accountability. So they don’t have a system to ensure projects get completed on time and to standard. Without a system, successful completion is left to chance or sweat or throwing more people at the problem. None of these tactics is a solution.

Hard Truth: You must be able to hold yourself and your team accountable for accomplishing the mission.

The Remedy: The Three Criteria for an Effective Accountability System

  • Clear expectations — People know what is expected of them and by when
  • Precise plan for tracking progress — Published accountability chart, Regular check-in schedule, and transparent lines of communication
  • Predictable response when things go off track — This system is applied consistently but centers on improvement, not punishment.

Optimize for Clarity

Most businesses fail to consider how and why they do what they do regularly. They rarely take the time to dissect a process to get clarity on it, work to make it more efficient, and then document it so that that efficiency can be replicated.

As a result, most businesses are fraught with wasted time, money, and resources.

Hard Truth: You must regularly review every process in your business to minimize waste, inefficiency, and ineffectiveness.

The Remedy: The 9-Step Optimization Blueprint

To optimize a process, you must:

  1. Take an inventory
  2. Choose a place to begin
  3. Make a high-level map
  4. Make a video
  5. Give the video to someone else to create a checklist
  6. Give the checklist to someone else to run through
  7. Edit as necessary
  8. Document the process
  9. Regularly update the process

Automate for Precision

Most businesses fail to use technology to their advantage. They don’t consistently examine processes, implement appropriate automation, and ensure that every team member understands and embraces the technology.

Hard Truth: You must automate routine tasks to save time, save money, reduce mistakes, and allow you and your team to engage in higher-level pursuits.

The Remedy: The Automation Code

  1. Choose a process you have already optimized.
  2. List the tools you use in that process.
  3. Choose one.
  4. See if the appropriate trigger step is supported by Zapier.
  5. If it is, determine the action that follows that trigger.
  6. Choose the appropriate tool from Zapier.
  7. Follow the prompts to create your automation.

Outsource For Empowerment

Most founders fall into two traps when it comes to outsourcing. First is the “I have to do everything myself” excuse and second is the “We have to do that in-house” justification. It’s a stubbornness that invariably leads to overworked and overtasked teams who squander their talents on task better suited to someone or something else.

Hard Truth: You should outsource or delegate as much of your business as possible because it empowers you and your team to focus on the value each individual brings to the organization.

The Remedy: The Done Method

  1. Identify an area that is outside your zone of genius
  2. Identify the skill set needed for that task
  3. Determine if you have that skillset in-house or if you need to outsource it
  4. If you have that skillset in-house, does that person has the bandwidth for this task?
  5. Next, find the right “who”
  6. Do you need a specialist or generalist?
  7. Will they be dedicated or on-demand?
  8. Now you can outsource.

So that’s it.

Those are the nine concepts every founder needs if they want to become replaceable.

We teach all these principles in darn near-microscopic detail, through our online Replaceable Founder course, at our One Day Intensives in NYC and in our Less Doing Leaders Program.

Which program do you think best serves your learning style?

Since you dutifully read to the end, I can tell you are hungry for answers. I can also tell that you understand that the only way up is through.

Click here to embark upon your replaceability journey.

Having Doubts about Doubt? — Lean In.

I had another illuminating conversation with one of the people in the Less Doing Leaders program the other day. We talked about doubt. What it is and what we do with it.

We decided that doubt has an awful name and that it was time to take stock of its value. Use it to make better, more informed decisions; begin listening to that quiet voice in our head, which allows us to see things from another perspective.

And then doubt was everywhere. I mean everywhere. Should I take that speaking engagement? Can I write another book? Do I need to work harder on my business or relinquish even more control? Should I repaint the kids’ room? Does intermittent fasting work? I had fallen victim to one of my favorite psychological phenomenons; the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

The Baader-Meinhof phenomenon is a fascinating mind trick we play on ourselves. It’s otherwise known as frequency illusion. This phenomenon occurs when the thing you’ve just noticed, experienced or heard about, suddenly crops up everywhere — thinking about Teslas? You’ll see them on every corner. Heard someone ramble on about blockchain? Yup, everything on your LinkedIn feed is about blockchain. Talking about doubt? It becomes the topic of most of your conversations, both internal and external.

I first heard from Pema Chodron; not Pema personally, but in an interview with her published on a blog.

“We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.” Faith and doubt help us be to be open to what scares us.

Doubt acknowledges what is not understood. While it actively seeks understanding, it also accepts that understanding will never be perfect. Zen teachers talk about “beginner’s mind” and “don’t know mind” to describe a mind that is receptive to realization. This is the mind of faith and doubt. If we have no doubt, we have no faith. If we have no faith, we have no doubt.”

So I love Pema Chodron. She’s a Buddhist monk who uses swear words and speaks the language of transformation in a way that inspires me to take action. She also wrote a book called, “The Wisdom of No Escape.” which is a phrase every entrepreneur should tattoo on their forearm.

Then, the Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman film, Doubt, showed up out of nowhere. Now I’m not going to go into the plot, but rather the thoughts that kept me up that night.

What can we be really sure of? What are other people’s motives, and will we ever honestly know them? And is doubt helpful or harmful when there is a conflict between old and new, status and change, and infallibility and uncertainty?

So, let’s talk about doubt.

To doubt something is to be “uncertain of belief or opinion”; to “deliberately suspend judgment” Some would say it’s skeptical, others critical, and many would say judgemental.

It could be all three depending on the situation, but the most crucial distinction here is that I’m NOT talking about self-doubt. No way. That stuff sucks. Self-doubt is a lack of confidence, tanking self-esteem, and a negative, albeit, egotistical way of looking at the world. It translates into, “Well, I know I’m messing up, I’m not going to do the right thing, but the world still revolves around me and my decisions.” Toxic shit.

No, I’m talking about doubt as an agent of change. It can be a middle finger to the status quo and honest interrogation of why people around you “always do it this way.” The push back you’ll inevitably get from that heels dug in mentality should be your invitation to doubt even more.

If you question or doubt, a system, decision, policy or process which others are fully invested. If someone in a position of authority feels challenged by your doubt, stuff will get stirred up and brought out into the open.

In the words of my favorite Jurist, Louis Brandeis,

“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants;”

Things will change. Now I’m not saying that they will always change for the better. We need to put ourselves in a position to do the work, question the thinking, offer alternatives, and let the results go.

It is how we build up our doubt muscle.

We do not attach ourselves to the outcome. We take pride in our investigation, in our curiosity, and our questioning. When we do this, we get better at the doubt game. Our questions become more pointed. We allow others to see the problems, not as something of their making, or their fault, but as an opportunity to get on the doubt train with you and develop more innovative solutions.

P.S. Whenever you are ready…here are 4 ways I can help you grow your business:

  1. Join our FREE Facebook Group — The Replaceable Founder
  2. Get our FREE Replaceable Founder Mini-Course
  3. Come to our next One-Day Intensive “Becoming Replaceable” Workshop in September. Reply with SOHO. I’ll save you a spot.
  4. Want to work with us privately? Just answer a few questions and find out if you’re a good fit. Apply Now

Who’s Got Time to Save Time?

You do.


It’s that one commodity that nobody has more of than anybody else.

Everybody has the same 24 hours of the day. It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, what ethnicity you are, where you live. We all have the same amount of time. I’m sure you’ve all heard that many, many times before. It’s so cliche. However, sometimes, cliches are more accurate than we like them to be.

The amount of time doesn’t matter. It’s how we use the time.

We already know that work expands to fill the time allowed to complete it. It’s known as Parkinson’s Law. So if you give yourself 30 minutes to complete a task, you’ll do it. So if you give yourself 60 minutes to complete a task, you’ll do it in 60 minutes as well.

When we ask people when they come to our website, what’s your biggest productivity challenge? Most people say time. I find that to be such a cop-out because the truth is, is that you have the time to do these things that you want to do. You’re just not using your current time the right way; you’re distracting yourself, spending time and attention on the things that are not the most effective.

One of the best definitions I think of productivity and efficiency and effectiveness I love is that productivity is producing more, efficiency is producing more with less, and effectiveness is producing the right things. So time is never the issue. You’re spending time on the wrong things period.

The biggest thing that makes me crazy is when you have people say that they don’t have time to save time.

I can’t tell you how often I’m looking at businesses that have no documented processes of any kind or if they do have documented policies, people don’t know where they are. Also, if they don’t know when they are, they’re not updated in tested regularly, which means they’re useless.

Then some businesses say, “Oh yeah, we don’t have time to start working on that.” Which is like saying you don’t have time to sleep. It’s absurd to me. It’s frustrating because there’s no change and we can’t make that change unless it’s painful enough not to change.

So I would argue that no matter how times stretched you think you are, if you restricted your time, even further, innovations would start to come.

Imagine this. You’re 20 years old, you’re working on a project that you’re spending 18 hours a day, you’re young, you’re full of energy, full of vigor, and you’re working nonstop 18 hours a day. Hard-charging, being super productive, and three years of doing that, you find yourself with a chronic illness, and it nearly kills you. All the while, you’re building up debt and not getting things done. This chronic illness takes you from working 18 hours a day to barely struggling to get an hour of work on any given day. What do you do? I think most people would probably give up.


You find a new way of doing things in that one hour that you have.

Now, that was me when I got diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and my response to that was creating a brand new system of productivity that would allow me to get a maximum amount done, actually more than I’d ever gotten done before in much less time.

If you ask somebody, who works a nine to five job, “what would you do? If you could only work till four? The answer is easy, “skip lunch,” but if you ask that same person, what would you do if you only had an hour of the day to get that work done?

It requires an entirely different kind of thinking. One that most people are not even aware of because the question isn’t what would you do? It’s what wouldn’t you do? If those things that you wouldn’t do still have to get done, who or what is going to do them for you?

The whole idea of working smarter versus harder is particularly relevant here. No time restriction says you can not be more productive. It does not exist. I’ve seen so many different situations where people thought that they had no more time, and the time was their problem.

Time is never the problem. It’s just about how you use it.

Fortunately, this is one of the things that we teach you. We have this great program called The Replaceable Founder, which we deliver as an online program or a One Day Intensive taught here in New York every month. I teach all of that content, nine weeks of it in one single day. So if you’re strapped for time, one day might seem a lot more appealing than nine weeks.

One day in New York with me can change your life, and I don’t use that lightly. It is the goal of the event. I want to change your life and your business.

I bet you can make time for that.

Click on to save your spot.